A decisive and much-needed victory helped the San Francisco 49ers end their recent two-game slide and regain some confidence.
Now, they hope to prevent the Houston Texans from doing the same when the teams meet Sunday night at Candlestick Park.
After being outscored 56-10 in consecutive losses to Seattle and Indianapolis, San Francisco (2-2) looked dominant on both sides of the ball during a 35-11 win at St. Louis on Sept. 26.
"You want that response," coach Jim Harbaugh said. "I thought the team stared adversity in the face (with) a lot of grit and determination. The guys played with great energy and great toughness."
After rushing for 142 yards in the first three games, Frank Gore ran for 153 and a touchdown against the Rams. Teammate Anquan Boldin caught five passes for 90 yards and a TD following the same two-game stretch in which he had six receptions for 74.
Colin Kaepernick completed 47.3 percent of his passes while throwing four interceptions, no touchdowns and taking six sacks versus Seattle and Indianapolis. Against the Rams, he went 15 of 23 for 167 yards but threw two TDs without a pick.
"We know the talent we have on this team," Kaepernick said. "We know what we're capable of."
"Really, a good team win when you look at the defense,'' Harbaugh said. "... What was most impressive was the way the guys played together as a unit."
As Smith remains out indefinitely while attending a rehab facility following his second drunken-driving arrest, it's uncertain if Willis will return from a groin injury. Offensive lineman Joe Staley is expected to play after he injured his leg at St. Louis.
Like the 49ers, Houston (2-2) is a Super Bowl hopeful mired in a mediocre start and looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat.
"We're not where we want to be, but there's a long, long way to go," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We're a very capable football team, but we've got to be a more consistent football team."
After beating San Diego and Tennessee by a combined nine points, the Texans were blown out 30-9 at Baltimore, then blew a 17-point halftime lead in last Sunday's 23-20 overtime loss to Seattle.
That defeat prompted the team to hold a players-only meeting Monday.
"This isn't fun, man. I was sick of it after one loss," said defensive end J.J. Watt, who has recorded all 3 1/2 of his sacks in the last three games.
"We'll get it fixed. Everything that's wrong will be fixed. I can promise that."
Quarterback Matt Schaub needs to show some improvement after throwing six interceptions already - one of which has been returned for a TD in three straight games.
Despite those struggles, Kubiak has no plans to make a change.
"He's our quarterback," he said. "I don't see a lack of confidence. I see poor decision-making situations. It's something he has to handle and something we have to help him handle."
Schaub should remain comfortable relying on running back Arian Foster, who recorded 171 total yards last Sunday after totaling 227 in the first three games.
Houston allowed an average of 91.3 rushing yards through the first three weeks of the season, but yielded 179 to the Seahawks.
Stopping Kaepernick and Gore could be even tougher if linebacker Brian Cushing is unable to play after he suffered a concussion against Seattle. Cushing, who leads the team with 33 tackles, is being put through the league's mandatory concussion protocol.
The Texans and 49ers split their previous two meetings with each winning at home by three points.
In Houston's 24-21 victory over San Francisco in 2009, Schaub went 20 of 30 for 264 yards with two TDs and no interceptions. One of those touchdowns went to tight end Owen Daniels, who caught seven passes for 123 yards.
Vernon Davis had three TD receptions for the 49ers in that contest, but Gore was held to 32 yards on 13 carries.